History of the Devil, by Paul Carus, , at sacred-texts.com
BOUT THE YEAR 3000 B. C., long before the Arise of the Semitic nations, among whom the Babylonians, Assyrians, Israelites, and later the Arabians, were most prominent, there lived in Mesopotamia a nation of great power and importance, which is known by the name of Accad. And, strange to say, the Accadians were not a white, but a dark race. They are spoken of as "blackheads" or "blackfaces"; yet we need not for that reason assume that they were actually as black as the Ethiopians, for the bilingual tablets found in the mounds of Babylonia speak also of them as Adamatu 1 or red-skins, which makes it probable that they were reddish-dark or brown. How much the Semites owe to the Accadians, whose dominion ceased about 1500 B. C., and whose language began to die out under the reign of the Assyrian king Sargon (722-705), we may infer from the fact that many religious institutions, legends, and customs among the Semites were of Accadian origin.
Thus we know for certain that in their mode of determining the time they already possessed the institution of a week of seven days, and that the Sabbath was their holy day of rest. The literal meaning of the original Accadian word is explained as "a day on which work is unlawful," and the Assyrian translation Sabattu signifies cc a day of rest for the heart." Further, the legends of creation, of the tree of life, and of the deluge, mentioned in Genesis and also in Assyrian records, were well known to the Accadians, and from the conventional form of the tree of life, which in the most ancient pictures bears fir-cones, we may infer that the idea is an old tradition which the Accadians brought with them from their former and colder home in the fir-covered mountains of Media. In addition we have reminiscences of Accadian traditions in many Hebrew names, which proves beyond the shadow of a doubt the long-lasting influence of the ancient civilisation of Accad. The rivers of paradise, mentioned in Genesis, are Babylonian names. Thus, the Euphrates, or Purat, is the curving water; Tigris is Tiggur, the current; Hid-Dekhel, "the river with the high bank," is another name for the Tigris, which in inscriptions is called Idikla or Idikna; Gihon has been identified by some Assyriologists with Arakhtu (Araxes), and by Sir H. Rawlinson with Jukha; and King Sargon calls Elam "the country of the four rivers."
The names of the rivers of Eden indicate that the people with whom the legend of paradise originated must have lived on the banks of the Euphrates and Tigris. Under these circumstances we are surprised to find that the cultivated portion of the desert lands west of the
Euphrates was called Edinna, 1 a name that sounds very much like Eden.
About the time of Alexander the Great, a Babylonian priest by the name of Berosus wrote an interesting book on the history and religion of Babylon. It is now lost, but as various Greek authors, Alexander Polyhistor, Apollodorus, Abydenus, Damascius, 2 and Eusebius have largely quoted from his reports, we know quite a good deal about the information he gave to the world concerning his country.
All this was very interesting, but there was no evidence of the reliability of Berosus's records. The Babylonian legends might have been derived from the Old Testament. However, since the successful excavations of the Assyrian stone-libraries we have the most positive evidences as to the source and the great age of these traditions. A great part of them have come down to us from the old Accadians.
We know that the Babylonians possessed several legends which have been received into the Old Testament, the most striking ones being the legend of the deluge, of the tower of Babel, of the destruction of corrupt cities by a rain of fire (reminding us of Sodom and Gomorrah), of the babyhood adventures of King Sargon I. (reminding us of Moses), and of the creation of the world. The name of Babel, which is in Assyrian bab-ilani, or bab-ilu, i. e. the Gate of God, is a Semitic translation of the Accadian Ka-dingirra-ki, with the same meaning; literally:
[paragraph continues] "Gate + of God + the place." The etymology of the name Babel from balbel, "to confound," which is suggested both in the Assyrian account of the story and in Genesis, is one of those popular etymologic errors which are frequently found in ancient authors.
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XISUTHRUS (THE BABYLONIAN NOAH) IN THE ARK.
Saved through the assistance of the gods from the deluge. [After an ancient Babylonian cylinder. Reproduced from Smith-Sayce. Ch. A. of G., p. 300]
In the legend of the destruction of the cities there occur several names which indicate an Accadian source. The legend of the deluge 1 agrees in all important details with the analogous story in Genesis. It is the eleventh part of a larger epic celebrating Izdubar, 2 a sun-hero and an Assyrian Hercules, who goes through the twelve signs of the Zodiac, the eleventh being Aquarius, corresponding to the eleventh mouth of the Accadians, called "the rainy." 3
Who has not yet seen, even in our most modern cathedrals, pictures and statues of the four Evangelists adorned with the four representative beings of the animal creation? Matthew is accompanied by an angel or a
winged man, Mark by a lion, Luke by a steer, and St. John by an eagle. The creatures represent the cherubim of the Old Testament, who by the early Christians were conceived as the guardians and heavenly prototypes of the Gospel-writers. But these symbols are not original with the Jews; they are of a more venerable
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WALL DECORATION OF THE ROYAL PALACE AT NINEVEH IN THEIR PRESENT STATE. (After Place, reproduced from Lenormant.)
age than even the Old Testament; for we find them on the walls of the ancient royal palaces of Nineveh, and there can be no doubt about it that the Jewish conception of the cherubim is the heirloom of a most hoary antiquity.
About Sargon I., king of Agade, who, according to a tablet of King Nabonidus, lived 3754 B. C. and built
a temple to Samas, Mr. E. A. Wallis Budge says in his Babylonian Life and History, p. 40,:
"A curious legend is extant respecting this king, to the effect that he was born in a city on the banks of the Euphrates, that his mother conceived him in secret and brought him forth in a humble place that she placed him in an ark of rushes and closed it with pitch that she cast him upon the river in the water-tight ark; that the river carried him along; that he was rescued by a man called Akki, who brought him up to his own trade; and that from this position the goddess Istar made him king."
As to the Assyrio-Babylonian origin of these legends there can be no doubt. The best authorities agree--
"that Chaldea was the original home of these stories and that the Jews received them originally from the Babylonians." (Smith Sayce, The Chaldean Account of Genesis, p. 312.)
The numerous illustrations that have been found or early Assyrian and Babylonian seals prove--
"that the legends were well known and formed part of the literature of the country before the second millennium B. C." (Ib., p. 331.)
It is probable that all the old Chaldean legends existed in several versions. Of the creation story we possess two accounts which vary considerably; but one of them, which is narrated on seven tablets, is of special interest to us, not only on account of its being the main source of the first chapter of the Old Testament, but also because we possess in it one of the oldest documents in which the existence of the Evil One is mentioned. He is called in Assyrian Tiamtu, i. e., the deep, and is represented as the serpent that beats the sea, the serpent of the
night, the serpent of darkness, the wicked serpent, and the mighty and strong serpent.
The derivation of the biblical account of Creation from Assyrian sources can as little be doubted as that of other legends, not only because of its agreement in several important features, and in many unimportant ones, but also because sometimes the very words used in Genesis are the same as in the Assyrian inscriptions. We find in both records such coincidences as the creation of woman from the rib of man and the sending out of birds from the ark to ascertain whether the waters had subsided. First the birds returned at once, then they returned, according to the cuneiform tablet-inscriptions of the Assyrians, with their feet covered with mud; at last they returned no more. Further, the Hebrew Mehûmâh, confusion, chaos, is the Assyrian Mummu, while the Hebrew tehôm, the deep, and tohû, desolate, correspond to the Assyrian Tiamtu (= Tiamat).
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SACRED TREE AND SERPENT.
From an ancient Babylonian cylinder. After Smith-Sayce (L. c., p. 88.)
Our excavators have not as yet found a report of the fall of man and of the serpent that seduced Adam and Eve to taste the fruit of the tree of life. There is, however, a great probability that some similar legend existed, as we are in possession of pictures which represent two persons seated under a tree and a serpent near by.
The tree of life is an idea which must have been very popular among the Assyrians and Babylonians, for
their artists do not tire of depicting it in every form. It may date back to that remote period when the fruits of
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THE TREE OF LIFE.
Decorations on the embroidery of a royal mantle. (British Museum. Layard, Monuments, 1st series, pl. 6. Lenormant, l. l. V., p. 108).
trees constituted an important part of the food by which human life was sustained. 1
Tiamat is the original watery chaos from which heaven and earth were generated. Babylonian philosophers see in it the mother of the world and the source of all things, while in mythology it appears as the representative of disorder and the mother of the monsters of the deep.
After a long struggle Tiamat was conquered, as we read in the fourth tablet of the creation-story, by the Sun-god, Belus or Bel-Merodach. The struggle, however, is not finished, for the demon of evil is living still and Bel
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MERODACH DELIVERING THE MOON-GOD FROM THE EVIL SPIRITS.
(From a Babylonian cylinder. From Smith's Chaldean Account of Genesis.)
has to fight the seven wicked storm-demons who darken the moon. He kills dragons and evil spirits, and the reappearance of divine intelligence in rational creatures is symbolised in the myth that Bel commanded one of the gods to cut off his, i. e. Bel's head, in order to mix the blood with the earth for the procreation of animals which should be able to endure the light.
We here reproduce a brief statement of the Babylonian story of the creation, in which Tiamat plays an important part. Professor Sayce says (Records of the Past, New Series, Vol. I., pp. 128-131):
"A good deal of the poem consists of the words put into the mouth of the god Merodach, derived possibly from older lays. The first tablet or book, however, expresses the cosmological doctrines of the author's own day. It opens before the beginning of time, the expression 'at that time' answering to the expression 'in the beginning' of Genesis. The heavens and earth had not yet been created, and since the name was supposed to be the same as the thing named, their names had not as yet been pronounced. A watery chaos alone existed, Mummu Tiamat, 'the chaos of the deep.' Out of the bosom of this chaos proceeded the gods as well as the created world. First came the primæval divinities, Lakhmu and Lakhamu, words of unknown meaning, and then An-sar and Ki-sar, 'the upper' and 'lower firmament.' Last of all were born the three supreme gods of the Babylonian faith, Ann the sky-god, Bel or Illil the lord of the ghost-world, and Ea the god of the river and sea.
"But before the younger gods could find a suitable habitation for themselves and their creation, it was necessary to destroy 'the dragon' of chaos with all her monstrous offspring. The task was undertaken by the Babylonian sun-god Merodach, the son of Ea, An-sar promising him victory, and the other gods providing for him his arms. The second tablet was occupied with an account of the preparations made to ensure the victory of light over darkness, and order over anarchy.
"The third tablet described the success of the god of light over the allies of Tiamat. Light was introduced into the world, and it only remained to destroy Tiamat herself. The combat is described in the fourth tablet, which takes the form of a poem in honor of Merodach, and is probably an earlier poem incorporated into his text by the author of the epic. Tiamat was slain and her allies put in bondage, while the books of destiny which had hitherto been possessed by the older race of gods were now transferred to the younger deities of the new world. The visible heaven was formed out of the skin of Tiamat, and became the outward symbol of Ansar
and the habitation of Ann, Bel, and Ea, while the chaotic waters of the dragon became the law-bound sea ruled over by Ea.
"The heavens having been thus made, the fifth tablet tells us how they were furnished with mansions for the sun, and moon, and stars, and how the heavenly bodies were bound down by fixed laws that they might regulate the calendar and determine the year. The sixth tablet probably described the creation of the earth, as well as of vegetables, birds, and fish. In the seventh tablet the creation of animals and reptiles was narrated, and doubtless also that of mankind.
"It will be seen from this that in its main outlines the Assyrian epic of the creation bears a striking resemblance to the account of it given in the first chapter of Genesis. In each case the history of the creation is divided into seven successive acts; in each case the present world has been preceded by a watery chaos. In fact the self-same word is used of this chaos in both the Biblical and Assyrian accounts--tehôm, Tiamat--the only difference being that in the Assyrian story 'the deep' has become a mythological personage, the mother of a chaotic brood. The order of the creation, moreover, agrees in the two accounts; first the light, then the creation of the firmament of heaven, subsequently the appointment of the celestial bodies 'for signs and for seasons and for days and years,' and next, the creation of beasts and 'creeping things.' But the two accounts also differ in some important particulars. In the Assyrian epic the earth seems not to have been made until after the appointment of the heavenly bodies, instead of before it, as in Genesis, and the seventh day is a day of work instead of rest, while there is nothing corresponding to the statement of Genesis that 'the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.' But the most important difference consists in the interpolation of the struggle between Merodach and the powers of evil, as a consequence of which light was introduced into the universe, and the firmament of the heavens was formed.
"It has long since been noted that the conception of this struggle stands in curious parallelism to the verses of the Apocalypse
[paragraph continues] (Rev. xii, 7-9): 'And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world.' We are also reminded of the words of Isaiah, xxiv. 21, 22: 'The Lord shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth. And they shall be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison.'"
The Babylonians worshipped many deities, but their favorite god was Bel, who is frequently identified with Merodach, on account of his struggle with Tiamat.
Bel-Merodach is one of the great trinity of Anu, Ea, and Bel, which on an ancient cylinder is pictured as hovering above the tree of life before which two human forms, apparently king and queen, are seen in an attitude of adoration.
The Babylonian trinity was thought to be male and
female, and it is noteworthy that the female representative of the divine father Anu, the god-mother Anna, also called Istar, was worshipped under the symbol of a dove, which in a purer and nobler form reappears in Christianity as an emblem of most significant spirituality.
Bel-Merodach is the Christ of the Babylonians, for he is spoken of as the son of the god Ea, the personification of all knowledge and wisdom. Professor Budge says:
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FIGHT BETWEEN BEL-MERODACH AND TIAMAT.
From an ancient Assyrian bas-relief, now in the British Museum
"The omnipresent and omnipotent Marduk (Merodach) was the god, who 'went before Ea' and was the healer and mediator for mankind. He revealed to mankind the knowledge of Ea; in all incantations he is invoked as the god 'mighty to save' against evil and ill."--Babylonian Life and History, p. 127.
The struggle between Bell-Merodach and Tiamat was a favorite subject with Assyrian artists. In one of them,
which is now preserved in the British Museum, the Evil One is represented as a monster with claws and horns, with a tail and wings, and covered with scales.
Concerning the Evil One and hell, as conceived by the Babylonians, Mr. Budge says, pp. 139, 140:
"Their Hades was not so very far different from Sheol, or the 'pit' of the Bible, nor the Devil much to be distinguished from the Satan we read of."
"The Babylonian conception of hell is made known to us by a tablet which relates the descent of Istar thither in search of her lovely young husband, Tammuz. It has been stated that the same word for Hades, i. e. Sheol, as that used in the Hebrew Scriptures, has been found in Babylonian texts; but this assertion has been made while the means for definitely proving it do not at present exist. The lady of the Babylonian Hades was called Nin-kigal, and the place itself had a river running through it, over which spirits had to cross. There was also 'a porter of the waters' (which reminds us of the Charon of the Greeks), and it had seven gates. The tablet mentioned above tells us that--
"The outer gate of this 'land of no return' was strongly guarded and bolted, for the porter, having refused to grant Istar admission, the goddess says--
"There is another name for Hades, the signs which form it meaning 'the house of the land of the dead.' A gloss gives its pronunciation as Arali. Such, then, is the Babylonian hell. It is difficult to say where they imagined their Hades to be, but it has been conjectured by some that they thought it to be in the west."
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(From a Chaldean stele in the British Museum. After Lenormant.)
Besides Tiamat there were in Assyrian and Babylonian mythology innumerable demons whose names are known through the inscriptions and whose portraits are preserved on statues, bas-reliefs, and cylinders. The magic formulae which were employed to ward off their influence are always uttered seven times in the Sumero-Accadian language which was deemed more sacred on account of its age, for it had become unintelligible for the common people and remained in use only for liturgic purposes. The Assyrians expected to frighten demons away by showing them their own shape and by exhorting them to destroy themselves mutually in an internecine combat.
Lenormant briefly sets forth the demonology of the Assyrians Histoire ancienne de l'Orient, V., page 494.
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DEMON OF THE SOUTHWEST WIND.
(Statue in the Louvre. After Lenormant.)
"In the army of the Good as well as in the army of Evil, there obtains a hierarchical system of more or less powerful spirits according to their rank. The texts mention the ekim and the telal or warrior; the maskin or trapper; the alal or destroyer; the labartu, the labassu, the ahharu, kind of ghosts, phantoms, and vampires. Frequently the mas, the lamma, and the utuq are quoted; and a distinction is made between the good and the evil mas, the good and the evil lamma, the good and the evil utuq. There are also the alapi or winged bulls, the nirgalli or winged lions, and the innumerable kinds of heavenly archangels. The gods Anna and Ea, called the spirit of heaven (zi an na) and the spirit of the earth (zi ki a), as the gods of every science, are commonly invoked in incantations as alone able to protect mankind against the attacks of the evil spirits. The monuments of Chaldea prove the existence of an extremely complex demonology the exact gradation of which is not yet sufficiently known."
Concerning the Devil of the disease-engendering southwest wind Lenormant says (ibid. V., p. 212):
"The Louvre possesses the image of a horrible demon in upright posture, with a dog's head, eagle's feet, lion's paws, and a scorpion's tail. Half of the head shows the skull fleshless. He has four spread wings. A ring at the top of the head served to
suspend the figure. On the back of the statue is the inscription in sumero-accadian, indicating that it represents the demon of the southwest wind and that it should be placed at the door or the window for the sake of warding off his injurious influence. The south-west
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Lion-headed and eagle-claw-footed demons. (British Museum. After Lenormant, l. c. V. p. 204.)
wind in Chaldea comes from the deserts of Arabia, and its burning breath parches everything, producing the same ravages as the khamsin in Syria and the simoon in Africa."
The Nirgalli are described by the same scholar as follows (ibid. V., p. 215):
'At Kuyunjik, in the palace of Asurbanipal, we see in several corners a series of monsters with human bodies, lions' heads, and eagles' feet. They appear in groups of two, combating one another with daggers and clubs. They, too, are demons and express in the language of the sculptor the formula so frequently met with
AN ANCIENT ASSYRIAN BRONZE TABLET REPRESENTING THE WORLD IN THE CLUTCHES OF AN EVIL DEMON. Collection of M. de Clercq. (After Lenormant).
in incantation: 'The evil demons should get out, they should mutually kill one another.'"
There is an ancient bronze tablet which shows the picture of the world in the clutches of the Devil. Lenormant, when speaking of the Chaldean conception of hell, alludes to this remarkable piece of antiquity and describes it as follows:
"A bronze plate in the collection of M. De Clercq contains in a synoptic world-picture a representation of hell, and it is necessary
that we here give a description of it. One side of the bronze plate is entirely occupied by a four-footed monster, with four wings, standing on eagle's claws. Raising himself on his hind feet, be looks as though he intended to jump over the plate against which he leans. His head reaches over the border as over the top of a wall. The face of the wild and roaring monster towers, on the other side of the plate, above a picture which is divided into four horizontal strips representing the heavens, the earth, and hell. In the top strip one sees the symbolic representations of the celestial bodies. Underneath appears a series of seven persons clad in long robes and having beads of a lion, a dog, a bear, a ram, a horse, an eagle, and a serpent. These are the celestial genii called ighigs. The third strip exhibits a funeral scene, which undoubtedly happens on earth. Two personages dressed in the skin of a fish, after the fashion of the god Anu, are standing at the head and foot of a mummy. Further on there are two genii--one with a lion's head, the other with a jackal's head--who threaten one another with their daggers, and a man seems to flee from this scene of horror. The picture of the fourth strip is bathed in the floods of the ocean, which according to the traditional mythology of the Chaldeans reaches underneath the foundations of the earth. An ugly monster, half bestial, half human, with eagles' wings and claws, and a tail terminating in a snake's head, stands on the shore of the ocean, on which a boat is floating. This is the boat of the deity Elippu, frequently mentioned in the religious texts and probably the prototype of the boat of Charon in Greek mythology. In the boat is a horse which carries upon its back a gigantic lion-headed deity, holding in her hands two serpents; and two little lions jump to her breast to suck her milk. In the corner there are fragments of all kinds, human limbs, vases, and the remainders of a feast.
"Thus this little bronze tablet contains the picture of the world such as the imagination of the Chaldeans represented it to be: the gods and the sidereal powers, angels and demons, ighigs and anunnaks, the earth and men, with supernatural beings who exercise a direct influence upon them: the dead protected by certain demons
and attacked by others according to the philosophical conception of good and evil, and the antagonism of the two principles which constitutes the basis of the Assyrio-Chaldean religion. Anu protects the dead in the same way as does the Egyptian Osiris. There is the subterranean river reminding one of the Styx and Acheron of the Greeks as well as of the subterranean Nile of Amenti." (P. 291.)
It goes without saying that the old biblical legends, far from losing their value by being proved to be much older, gain air additional value; they are now more interesting to us than ever. Formerly the biblical account of the creation was thought to be the very beginning of the religious evolution of man, but now we know that it is merely a milestone on the road. It is neither the beginning nor the end. It is simply the summary of a long history of anxious inquiry and speculation, which would have remained forgotten had we not discovered the Assyrian tablets bearing witness to the aspirations that preceded the composition of the Old Testament. But there is one thing which seems strange: the Chaldean belief in the immortality of the soul found no echo in the literature of the Jews. Did they refuse to incorporate it into the Hebrew world-conception because they disbelieved it; or did they merely ignore it because they were too realistic and would not allow themselves to be carried away by illusions even of the loftiest kind?
The civilisation of Assyria and Babylon was more brilliant, more powerful, and more cosmopolitan than the civilisation of Israel. Nevertheless, there is this important difference between the religious legends and speculations of these two nations, that while the Assyrian tablets are polytheistic and mythological, the Hebrew text is
monotheistic. The mythological ornaments of the original story have been chastened and simplified. Without being blind to the poetic beauties of the original, which in its way is not less venerable than the later Hebrew version, we must say that the latter is a decided improvement. Its greater simplicity and freedom from fantastic details gives it a peculiar soberness and grandeur which is absolutely lacking in the Assyrian myth of the creation.
While unequivocally recognising the superiority of the Hebrew account, we must, however, mention in justice to the Assyrian and Babylonian civilisation that monotheism was by no means an exclusively Jewish belief. There were monotheistic hymns of great strength and religious beauty, both in Egypt and in Babylon, long before the existence of the people of Israel, and it is not impossible that what Sir Henry Rawlinson calls "the monotheistic party" of Babylon or their brethren in Egypt were the founders of Jewish monotheism. It is certain that the philosophers of Egypt and Babylonia were not without influence upon the development of the Israelitic religion.
Egyptian and Babylonian monotheists apparently suffered the popular mythology as a symbolical expression of religious truth, while in later periods the religious leaders of the Jews had no patience with idolators, and, becoming intolerant of polytheism, succeeded in blotting out from their sacred literature the popular superstitions of their times; some vestiges only were left, which are now valuable hints indicating the nature of the text before it was changed by the hands of later redactors.
29:1 A popular etymology connected this word Adamatu with Adamu or Admu, "man," which later, as Rawlinson pointed out, reappears in the Bible as the name of the first man. See The Chaldean Account of Genesis, by George Smith. p. 83.
31:1 Sir Henry Rawlinson believes that Gân Eden or the Garden of Eden is Gan-Duniyas (also called Gan-Duni), meaning "enclosure," which is a name of Babylonia in Assyrian inscriptions.
31:2 See Cory's Ancient Fragments, pp. 51-56.
32:1 See George Smith, The Chaldean Account of Genesis, edited by Prof. A. H.
Sayce, p. 304, and also Dr. Paul Haupt's habilitation lecture Der keilinschriftliche Sintfluthbericht, Leipzig, 1881.
32:2 This is the commonly adopted form of the name; although the proper transcription is Gilgamesh. He is also called "Gistubar." The literal meaning of the word is "mass of fire." See Lenormant's Histoire Ancienne de l'Orient, V., p. 199.
32:3 Some of the pictures of the Zodiac are strikingly like those which modern charts employ; for instance the centaur and the scorpion, which can be seen on an Assyrian bas-relief in the British Museum reproduced in Lenormant's Histoire Ancienne de l'Orient, V., p. 180.
36:1 It is noteworthy that fagus, the beechtree, and φηγός, the oak, which are both etymologically identical with the English word beech and the German Buche, mean "eating" or "the tree with eatable fruit." The word acorn, which is not derived from oak, but is connected with acre, the field, means "harvest or fruit"; it has no connexion with the German Eichel (acorn), but it is the same as the German Ecker, which is the name of the beechtree fruit.